Insiders Split Along Party Lines Over Bain Attacks
National Journal Political Insiders were almost symmetrically split on the effectiveness of the President Obama campaign attacks on Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital.
While half of all Republican Insiders said the attacks were "not effective," a little over half of Democratic Insiders rated them "highly effective." About 4 in 10 Insiders of each party said the tactics were "somewhat effective." Republicans who said the attacks were highly effective and Democrats who believed they were not effective at all numbered in the single digits.
Is attacking Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital an effective tactic for Democrats?
The Obama re-election team has recently made Romney's experience at Bain Capital, the private equity firm he co-founded and led for more than a decade, a major theme in their campaign, portraying the former Massachusetts governor as a greedy corporate vulture, maximizing profits for investors on the backs on average Americans.
Many Democratic Insiders said it was one of the best ways to define Romney for voters.
"It goes after what is supposed to be Romney's greatest strength--economic experience--just like George W. Bush did to John Kerry on his military record," said one Democratic Insider. "And it is such an easy target!"
Another added of the approach: "Of course it is, that's why Republicans are whining about it so much."
Others believed the tactic was an accurate reflection of Romney's character and that his private sector experience denoted a more fundamental difference in vision between the two presidential candidates.
"Romney's experience profiting off others' misery at Bain is the epitome of the difference in philosophy among the two major parties," one Insider said. "Nobody can relate to how he made all that money."
"No one knows what Bain is or does, but it's a symbol of deep-pocketed forces that have reaped huge profits for a few by sending millions of jobs overseas and screwing as many working Americans out of livelihoods," another assessed.
Some Democratic Insiders were more dubious.
"It has short-term utility in the effort to use Romney's past to define his past as out of touch with average Americans but its resonance is limited," one said. "His vision for the future is more relevant and disturbing. Tell that story."
Others, meanwhile, said that criticism coming from the Obama team's own surrogates undercut the message. "Would be better if Cory Booker put a lid on it!" one said, referring to the Newark Mayor's candid criticism of the ploy.
Republican Insiders were much more skeptical of the tactic's utility, particularly when coming from an incumbent president whose economic record is lackluster. In some cases, they were downright disdainful.
"Bain may have closed companies and fired workers two decades ago under Romney, but Obama did so in real time, to GM workers and auto dealers," one Republican Insider said. Or as another put it bluntly: "Obama does not know what a job is and it shows."
Others pointed out the hypocrisy of the Obama campaign lashing out at a sector it happily accepts checks from. "How can Obama credibly attack Romney for being the same kind of guy he is begging for campaign cash from? The answer revealed this week: he can't," one Republican said.
Many also pointed out how the message had been damaged by Obama surrogates airing their disagreement with the course so publicly.
"When your own teammates are telling you to knock it off, it's a signal you're on the wrong track," one said. "It is always good to attack your opponent's potential strengths, but not if you can't keep your team on message about it!" another agreed.
Some Republican Insiders, however, expressed some concern with the attacks--with caveats.
"Anything that gets the media to focus on something other than President Obama's disastrous economic record is somewhat effective," one said.
"It is a good counterpunch to Romney's economic experience message," another agreed. "But in the end it is another permutation of a stale class warfare argument that the Democrats have been running on for decades."